Re: Future Technologies of Death

Nick Bostrom (
Thu, 1 Jan 1998 20:24:01 +0000

Anders Sandberg <> wrote:

> "Martin H. Pelet" <> writes:
> > When AI systems will be available, you will of course have the tools
> > to read their whole minds directly, which would solve the problem above,
> > but this method would violate their rights.
> Not necessarily. If you start to examine my innards without
> permission, it would be a violation of my rights. But I can give a
> doctor at least a temporary permission to examine my internal state,
> and that does not violate my rights.

We might be able to do even better. Have a special-purpose machine
that scans your mind and gives as output a binary answer to whether
you are responsible or not. Then the memory of this machine is
automatically erased and only the output remains. The subject to be
investigated can be allowed to make any arrangements necessary to
verify the validity and confidentiality of the proceedure.

Suppose such a machine existed for deciding with 100% accuracy
whether somebody had commited a certain crime. It would then be hard
to argue that the law enforcing agency did not have the right to
apply this technique to any subject it wanted to (provided that it
was quick and had no side effects). For to refuse the law enforcing
agency the unlimited right to use this technique would be equivalent
to refusing it to maximise its detection rate of criminals, even when
no externalities were involved. What legitimate reason could anybody
have for not wanting the law enforcing agency scan his mind with this
device in order to find out if he had commited a crime?

Or do we perhaps *want* a certain failure rate of the law enforcing
system, so that if the political systems lead to really screwed up
laws, there will at least be some chance of escaping them and perhaps
starting a revolution. Is criminality a little bit like random noice,
so that a certain amount is beneficial since it makes the system less
likely to get stuck in a "local maximum"?

Nick Bostrom

*Visit my transhumanist web site*